22 March 2010

The Nice Schizophrenic Next Door

We're making plans for a family trip to Montreal next summer, to correspond with a conference I've got to go to. (Peter -- Are you going to be in the vicinity in early August?) One of the conference hotels is the Fairmont Le Reine Élizabeth. There is something so deliciously Canadian about their insistence upon rendering the name of the Queen of England in French; it is just a constant delight.


Harry Eagar said...

You mean like Hotel Georges V in Paris?

Dunno if you've chosen your accommodations yet, but the best bargain in hotels in the world, bar none, is Institut de tourisme et d'hotellerie. Although, checking just now, I cannot believe how cheap Montreal hotels are.

L'institut is a training hotel, right at the entrance to the university. Five star service at half the price of the Queen Elizabeth.

One night when we were staying there, the waiters were being trained in flaming dishes. They were pressing flambe for every course, and when we walked into the restaurant, it looked like a small forest fire.

Peter said...

Schizophrenia has nothing to do with it. Quebec Language laws mandate all commercial enterprises give prominence to a French name. At the beginning, they were holy terrors who outdid the real French for nose-in-the-air elitist nationalism, but their own population rebelled when they were told to put chien chaud and hambourgeois on signs for fast food stands, so they are quieter now.

Let's see whether any of you Yankees remember enough high school French to tell me why it is Le Reine Elizabeth, rather than La.

David, I'll be here in Ottawa, two hours away. Really very pretty in summer. Love to see you.

erp said...

More than one Queen Elizabeth?

zmkc said...

Why is it Le not La - please spare us any more suspense

Peter said...

No, it isn't an anti-royalty statement. Le describes the noun, hôtel, which is masculine.

Brit said...

I realised the futility of trying to work out the genders of French nouns when it was pointed out to me that the frog for "vagina" is masculine.

Peter said...

And tie (as in necktie) is feminine.

But we get them back on pronunciation. I remember a franco-colleague describing the hell of trying to memorize the prounciation of all the "ough" words. He admitted to a sudden attack of blind hatred for all Anglophones when he got them all right on an oral test but the instructor then told him he had blown "salmon".

erp said...

A French prof with whom I used to work had an almost unintelligible accent although she lived in the U.S. for over 25 years. One day at lunch she was decrying her students’ inability to pronounce French properly. When we all started to laugh, she had the good grace to say, perhaps she shouldn’t judge them so harshly.

BTW – I used to call her “M” because try as I would, I couldn’t pronounce her name, Mireille.

Peter said...


Quebecers are masters of parody and their comedy shows are generally much better than ours. They can be positively savage about the French, at whose hands they suffer no small amount of snobbery. Many years ago, I was left rolling on the floor over a skit about French tourists. Most of it is gone now, but I will never forget the arrival of the Frenchman at Montreal airport:

Customs Officer: "Bonjour, bonjour Monsieur. Bienvenue au Canada. Avez-vous quelque chose a déclarer?"

Frenchman: "Oui! Vive la France!!"

erp said...

At the language school where I worked, all the instructors during the total immersion summer sessions were native speakers, strangely there were never any French Canadians teaching in the French program. To say it politely, the frogs didn't consider the language spoken north of our border French.

Bret said...

Well, that's interesting.

I'd've claimed I didn't understand a word of French, but Peter's joke was pretty clear so I've apparently absorbed a bit over the last several decades.

Harry Eagar said...

My French teacher was from Lyon and decidedly antiParisian. She undertook to teach us French with a southern accent, but all she got was Southern accents.

Theodore Zelman claims that in 1900, only 6% of the people in France spoke French.

jim hamlen said...

What did the other 94% speak? German?

My college French professor was a Windsor (as in House of). She was a cheerful woman who held class outside (it was summer term), and when we performed a skit ("Who's on First") in French, she had a devil of a time trying to understand what a 'bunt' was.

As I recall, we had a devil of a time trying to find the right words ('little hit', 'soft hit', 'tap', even 'pretend swing'). We had to teach her all about baseball before she knew which words to use.